Sometimes fun presents itself in unexpected places. Take, for instance, our last police training session.
I was "officially" informed that one of my duties would be to escort our half of the group to the track. The police officers come from all over Oregon. The first part of their day is spent in a classroom session. Then they're divided into two groups. One group goes to the track and the other to the airport. After lunch the groups switch venues. The classroom is pretty much across the highway from the classroom. Makes it pretty easy to find. The classroom instructor will take care of that, anyway. It's a bit more complicated to find the track. How do you ask a cop for directions when they're from a different part of the state? Hence my services as a guide.
Since it only takes one instructor to do classroom, the rest of us met early at the track. We spent some time playing, er, I mean, practicing our lines. We had the track for the day, why waste it? You know, there's really worse ways to start a Monday than running lap after lap on a tight and technical track. The instructors had it all to themselves. All good things come to an end, they say. All too soon it was time to go get the cops and get down to some real work.
The photo above is what I saw when I arrived at the parking lot. A sea of police bikes. There were thirty eight all together. My Nikon was in a saddlebag back at the track. Those of us with sport touring bikes strip the bags off for the track time. The picture was taken in bright sunshine with my camera phone. It's not the best camera but you get the idea.
I dismounted Elvira and walked into the classroom. When you walk into a small room crowded with almost forty uniformed police officers it can feel a little strange. It's old stuff to me but I can imagine someone thinking they walked onto the set of a "Cops" episode. Depending on the person, some might start heading towards the nearest wall, if you know what I mean. "Assume the position!"
Everybody finally got sorted into the two groups. They were all busy chatting with each other. I finally started Elvira rolling and made some sort of smart mouthed comment to get their attention. Time to go. I'm riding point with 19 police bikes in formation behind me. We had a ten minute ride through downtown McMinnville. It's interesting what goes through your mind at a time like this. With a lively mind like mine, the possibilities are endless.
First off, I'm torn between riding at a legal speed or taking advantage of the situation. Do we set a good example to the public or take the attitude that with so many police bikes it's really a non-issue. I opted for prudent. Take that for what you will. Then I had another idea.
I could ask them all to activate their lights. How cool to have so many police bikes with lights flashing following me at 30 miles an hour. Let's do an "O.J." guys! Remember that slow speed chase?
Then I thought it would be cool to really piss off some driver. Especially some guy a whole lot bigger than me and driving one of those ridiculously jacked up pickups. It would have been so fun to watch the conflicting emotions in his face. On the one hand the dude would want to pound me. Not that it would be easy, mind you. I'm much tougher than my five feet eight and a half inches would lead one to believe. The guy's anger would be tempered by glances at all the police bikes parked behind me. I'd taunt the dude, for sure. Hey, you mess with me, you mess with all my friends.
Of course, with my luck the cops would let the guy have at me without stepping in. They'd sit on their bikes and laugh their back ends off. Suddenly the entertainer becomes the entertainment. Would you all really do that to me?
None of this came to pass. It was merely entertainment in my head. We did have a bit of real life amusement, though.
It wasn't long before our group came up behind a mid-sized grey sedan. An average looking woman was driving. I'm sure she had absolutely no reason to be nervous of the group behind her. I doubt there were any warrants out for her. She's probably never even had a speeding ticket. Imagine driving along minding your own business. Suddenly, there's this pack of motor cops on your tail. They say the best safety device in the world is a police officer in your rear view mirror. How about 19 of them led by a Hi-Viz wildman on a black FJR?
In between chuckles I actually felt sorry for her. I'm sure she probably had a sore neck before long. I was right behind her, being at the head of the pack. There was a repeating pattern to her head movements. Look down at the speedometer. Look back up to check the rearview mirror. Check the left side mirror. Check the right side mirror. Look out the front windshield on the way back down to the speedometer. Worry, glance, repeat.
We followed her for probably three quarters of the way. The speed option was totally taken out of my hands. The speed limit was 35 mph. According to Elvira's speedo, we were doing 33. When the speed limit was reduced to 25, she actually put on her brakes to make sure she was slowed before the new speed limit sign. You got it, the speed was 23. She finally turned off, but not after signaling for almost a whole block before the turn. I can imagine the huge sigh of relief when she saw we weren't following her!
When you've been on the other side of the badge and still spend a lot of time around police officers in various capacities, you don't think much of it anymore. Most civilians are coming from a different place. I sort of wished there had been a way to assure the poor woman that she could relax and enjoy her drive. We had other things going on. Unless she had just robbed a bank or decided to do some street racing, she was simply a part of the scenery. I'll bet we came up in her dinner table conversation with the family that night.
Our group arrived at the track without terrorizing anyone else. Stay tuned for more from the track. By the way, have you figured out the "fun on forty wheels" part by now? It was probably obvious right away. I thought it was kind of clever, myself.
Miles and smiles,